AN 11th-hour call to help safeguard the future of a historic Island aircraft has been issued by the man who saved it from the scrapheap.
Matt Palmer bought the De Havilland Heron – which used to fly between the Channel Islands, the UK and continental Europe – for £1, after the company that previously owned it went into liquidation.
Mr Palmer, who leads the government’s Cyber Emergency Response Team, stepped up to buy the aircraft last year when it became clear no one else was prepared to save the propeller-driven passenger plane from the scrapyard.
Since then, he has been searching for ways to keep the Duchess of Brittany, which first took off in the 1950s, in the Island as a static exhibit as a visitor attraction and for educational purposes.
He said that the prospect of getting the Cold War-era aircraft flying again had been considered, but a combination of ‘regulatory hurdles’ and running costs had ruled that option out.
‘Part of the challenge is because we are on an island, and access to things like hangarage and engineering services are limited.
‘Whereas if you were in mainland UK or France, you have more access to classic aviation services.’
The Heron has been located at the Airport on a section of tarmac without cover since 2019, but Mr Palmer said its future was ‘by no means certain’.
‘The challenge is, even with a decommissioned aircraft, we need space – and at the moment we have no viable location in Jersey.
‘We want to create a future for it, so we need to ensure protection and that means some form of coverage.
‘Ideally I would like to be able to do that here and keep her in Jersey because of the heritage story that she tells, but I have not been able to locate a place to do that,’ he said.
Mr Palmer explained that, as an alternative solution, he was also in discussions with UK aviation charities and museums that had expressed an interest in the aircraft.
‘Of course, what that would mean is she would cease to be available in terms of a heritage and educational opportunity for Jersey, and we would lose a little bit of our Island history forever.
‘However, it would preserve the aircraft and would still tell the story of that period of aviation.’
He added that this winter could be the ‘last opportunity’ to find the plane a permanent home in the Island, and that he was also writing to organisations including Jersey Heritage and the Pallot Steam, Motor and General Museum to see if they could help.
‘This is the final call and we are looking at due diligence processes for the UK options.
‘If there are no opportunities this side of winter, I would expect that we would be looking at relocating her off-Island next year.
‘This needs to be her last year exposed and uncovered in Jersey,’ he said.
‘There is still a risk she could end up being scrapped – but hopefully that is unlikely.’
Anyone who may be able to provide a permanent home for the Duchess of Brittany should contact Mr Palmer via email at email@example.com.